I remember when I heard we were going to build a new stadium in Downtown Indianapolis for the Indianapolis Indians. My reaction was, “Why in the hell would we do that?”
Because Bush Stadium, out on West 16th Street, was a gem. A miniature Wrigley Field. Where Hank Aaron played for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League. The place John Sayles shot Eight Men Out.
The place I took my son every summer to see Indians baseball games. Where we watched fireworks on Independence Day and saw a young beanpole named Randy Johnson mow down a bunch of PawSox. (Or Mud Hens. Or Tides. I don’t rightly remember.)
Where my pal Kurt Hunt sold group tickets and wrote press releases and announced that “Rrrrrr-azor Shines” was approaching the batter’s box. Where I shot my favorite commercial I ever wrote, for Hook Drugs, back around 1989.
Bush Stadium was a beautiful ballpark, with ivy-covered walls and dank, foul-smelling bathrooms and not a bad seat in the house. Today those seats are filled with trash, overgrown with vines and weeds and bushes invading up the right field line.
I loved Bush Stadium and didn’t want to see it abandoned. There are certain places you want to believe are immune to entropy, if only in your own mind (which is deteriorating, as well. There is no way around entropy).
And it’s hard to complain about Victory Field (except for the uninspired name. Seriously? That’s the best we could come up with?) It’s a jewel of an urban ballpark, a beautiful place to spend a summer afternoon making pencil scratches on a scorecard, drinking beer and ogling girls and watching young men play ball. Triple A ball is the last bastion of baseball innocence before the players make the Show–if they make the Show–and become millionaires. It’s almost like the big leagues back in the ’50s, when the players had to sell insurance or work in a liquor store in the off-season to make ends meet. (It isn’t really like this, but it’s nice to pretend.)
And John Watson, a developer and historical preservationist, has plans to rescue our venerable old stadium from its current state of disrepair. He’s planning to build loft apartments inside Bush Stadium’s facade. Far better this than the low-rent racetrack it turned into after the Indians moved to Victory Field, or the auto graveyard it became after that.
I hope that happens. Bush Stadium is still too beautiful a place to be leveled by the wrecking ball. And all those ghosts of all those seasons past–the ballplayers who never made the majors, whose baseball odysseys ended here, and all the fans who loved them–would have no place else to go.